* For fans, the price of water on the course halved, from $4 to $2. Also, additional water refill stations around the course.
* Added misters and shaded rest stations at popular gathering places on the grounds.
* For the players and caddies, some welcome additions to various tee boxes, especially the ones where there is little tree cover to provide shade. Tents where they might escape the sun for a few moments. Coolers filled with iced towels. Additional misting fans.
* On a trial basis, on every three holes, CoolMitt units. Players place their hands in these devices, where circulating cool water is designed to help bring down their core temperature.
* An area near the 10th hole in which the players can quickly change out of sweat-soaked wear before venturing onto the back nine.
* New cold-plunge tubs inside the clubhouse for after the round.
“We want the players to be at their best, to compete without worrying about the heat,” Urban said.
Accommodations to the heat filter down to all levels of the event. Like the standard bearers who accompany the players, carrying scorekeeping placards. This year, they’ll tag out after nine holes, rather than walking the usual entire 18.
“We put a lot of time into this. This has been a huge focus of ours. Once we saw the issues in Memphis, that made the whole team move on it,” said Urban, referring to the first playoff event two weeks ago where the heat index reached over 110 degrees.
Asked whether he thinks the heat would affect attendance – given the temptation to watch play in the cool comfort of one’s den – Urban expressed confidence in the hardiness of the southern golf fan.
“I think people in Atlanta are used to heat in August. It doesn’t bother them when they go watch the Dogs a few weekends in September, it doesn’t slow anyone down in these parts. And because we have things on the golf course to help them out, they’re not just standing out in a field with no respite.”
As for the players, they sounded prepared for whatever the thermometer throws at them, deploying a sort of competitive heat shield to get them through the week.
“I mean, we sort of chase the sun all year round, so I don’t think it’s something that we’re not used to,” Rory McIlroy said. “We’re used to playing in heat.”
“The Tour has done a really nice job with some amendments to the tee boxes with some cold towels and stuff and some more hydration stuff. So we’ll be a little bit more prepared than we were in Memphis. I think Memphis kind of snuck up on everybody,” said former Georgia star Brian Harman.
“I just hope everybody stays safe, especially people watching,” Harman said. “We watch a lot more fans go down than players and caddies. So the fans that are coming out need to be really careful because you can get in a lot of trouble out there.”